The eleventh game would see the Penguins travel to New York where they would face the New York Islanders in the first of two back-to-back games. The Penguins and the Isles created a little bit of animosity amongst the clubs last season when one of their February games turned into an all out brawl that left a number of players injured and even more fined and suspended for multiple games. It goes without saying that the anticipation heading into tonight’s game was a little on the intense side, with fans on both sides slinging out insults to varying degrees. It would, nonetheless, prove interesting to see the game play out.
The first half of the first period would be off at a feverish pace and it would be Pens net-minder Marc-Andre Fleury coming up big with 13 saves. The Pens would fire off seven shots of their own, and in the dying minutes of the period it would be Pascal Dupuis scoring his third of the season to give Pittsburgh the go-ahead goal for the evening. After receiving a break-away pass from teammate Brooks Oprik, Dupuis would earn himself a breakaway opportunity and would earn himself a point going high over the blocker of Isles goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. At the end of twenty, Nabokov would stop six of the seven shots the Pens fired at him.
Just twenty-one seconds into the second period, veteran Richard Park would earn his first of the night and second of the season giving the Pens the two goal lead. On just his second try, Park would pull his opponent to the ice, manoeuver around him and then rip a shot into the netting setting off the flashing lights. As the period wound down, both teams would have to kill off a couple of penalties but neither would be able to capitalize on the man-advantage. Evgeni Malkin, who made his return to the ice after missing the last several, missed a couple of great opportunities but looked like a force to be reckoned with out there!
Despite an early four minute 5-on-4 advantage for the Pens, it would take the Penguins eighteen minutes to score their third and final goal of the evening. Said goal came courtesy of Jordan Staal and an empty net and with the Isles being unable to respond, Fleury earned his first shoutout of the season and the twentieth of his career.
Paul Martin led all skaters with 27:18 of ice time while Kris Letang followed suit with 24:43. James Neal fired five shots at Nabokov while Pascal Dupuis earned four. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 33 shots he faced while the Pens fired a total of 29 shots in the directions of the Isles’ net-minder.
Tonight’s game, as mentioned, saw the return of Evgeni Malkin to the line up. Malkin had sat out the previous seven games with soreness in his knee (the same knee he had surgery on last season.) Malkin, who was a game time decision, came away from the game with almost twenty minutes of ice time and three shots and it was a relief to see Geno back on the ice. Pens captain Sidney Crosby continues to work toward his return to the ice. Crosby, who was cleared for contact a little over a week ago, has been out since suffering a concussion last January. It’s just a matter of time now before SC87 returns to the ice. Forward Tyler Kennedy continues to be sidelined with a concussion (believed to have resulted from a collision with the Sabres’ Tyler Myers) and no time frame has been established for his return. The Pens were also without (and will continue to be without) defenceman Zbynek Michalek. Michalek broke a finger during the Penguins game against New Jersey on October 22, 2011 and will be out at least four weeks.
The Penguins next game goes Thursday in Pittsburgh where they will face the Islanders for the second time this season and the second time this week. Puck drop goes at 7:00pm.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury
2. Pascal Dupuis
3. Richard Park